A new meeting of the Foyers de
Culture to be held in Reims in one of these centres there was discussed and a
date in October was set to meet Guermonprez' wishes. The European Youth
Campaign was to support the meeting financially and prepare the programme -
which Eugène then took upon him in accordance with Guermonprez. Participation
should be broader than in the previous meetings, which in fact meant that
Guermonprez already over the summerholidays was contacting people to secure
their presence. Through existing contacts with Britain - made during - and
after the second Rural Reconstruction conference in Impington (Cambridgeshire)
and in particular with help of Ms. L.S. Haynes assistant-secretary of the National
Institute of Adult Education people from this country were nominated. Bob
Schouten suggested a number of persons from Germany to be invited. As for the
Scandinavian countries however there was some hesitation to invite representatives
from the Folkhighschools there. As Guermonprez wrote to Eugène: (letter of
September 5, 1952): "It seems to be better to work very quietly on the
European cooperation of the Folkhighschools proper. That already proves to be
difficult enough. If it will succeed Laborey and I could very well establish a
Liaison between the Folkhighschools and the Foyers de Culture".
Guermonprez had every reason indeed
to write that it was "already difficult enough" to bring about more
cooperation in Europe between the Folkhighschools. In the same time (September
1952) when he was trying to broaden the scope of De Rougemont's plans for
European cooperation of the Foyers de culture, he was pursuing his efforts to
establish closer links between the Folkhighschools. After the Méridon meeting
in May 1952 a small committee had been appointed in order to prepare another
Folkhighschool meeting in 1953 in Askov (DK). The European Youth Campaign again
had promised its financial support - the problem however was how to get the
Apart from formal difficulties (who
could pretend to be "representative" for such a very loosely knit
"Teachers Union" as e.g. existed in Sweden: a problem with which
Hjalmar Bosson had to cope) there was a strong feeling of distrust towards
"European movements". This was overtly expressed in a letter (dated
15 September 1952) from Mrs. Arnfred, writing also on behalf of her husband, to
Guermonprez; "The Danish Folkhighschool people put more confidence in
personal connections such as Mr. Novrup (then inspector of Folkhighschools in
Denmark, CS) and others have created in many parts of Europe than in great
"Bewegungen as that of "Jugend Europas"...etc." In his
usual diplomatic way Guermonprez replied: "We think personal contact also
more important than great "Bewegungen", although these are also
necessary sometimes and he said to be glad that Poul Engberg (Koebmandshvile)
and probably Novrup himself would be present.
Clearly Guermonprez was working
along two - as he hoped convergent - lines: on the one hand trying to create an
opening in De Rougemont's plans with the Foyers de Culture in order to bring
the Folkhighschools in, on the other hand bringing about a Europe-wide
cooperation between these Folkhighschools. Yet developments along this line
were to be very carefully pursued as Guermonprez had indicated earlier
evidently to avoid that the bonds being forged at the Méridon meeting in May
with its large Scandinavian participation would be damaged by the somewhat
hasty approach with its formal character of a European cooperation in this
field as advocated by De Rougemont and the French Foyers de Culture.
The Youth Campaign having received a
number of names from Guermonprez and Schouten of people to be invited for the
Reims conference, once more insisted however to have nominations for
"I understand very well"
- Jacques Eugène wrote (letter dated 10 Sept. 1952) - "your wish to
establish first and foremost the cooperation with the Folkhighschools of these
countries, but on the other hand the Scandinavian support which is of no little
importance in this matter, would be very much welcomed by the other
participants". Eugène of course would have liked to have a meeting in
which representatives from all over Europe would take part, and he suggested
that if not from the Folkhighschools, then perhaps from youth-centres or
evening colleges representatives could be sought. Guermonprez indeed followed
up this suggestion and proposed that the directors of two
"day-Folkhighschools", in Copenhagen (Borup) and Stockholm (Hammer
from Birkagärden) be invited.
Meanwhile the invitations for the
first General Assembly of the European secretariat of the Cultural Centres (Foyers
de Culture) to be held at Reims at the Foyer Saint Exupéry (director A. Railliet)
on October 9, 1952 had been sent out.
This formal General Assembly was to
be followed by a conference on adult education (éducation populaire) organised
by the European Youth Campaign. The Assembly was to adopt the draft
constitution, to elect members of the governing body and to decide on a plan of
action for '53. The Conference had on its agenda the key-note speech by O.V.L.
Guermonprez on: "The Cultural Centres -centres for human, civic and social
education" ("Les Foyers de Culture - centres de formation humaine,
civique et sociale"). Guermonprez was announced in his capacity of
"directeur de la Volkshogeschool et du Centre Européen des Ecoles Supérieures
Populaires fixes et itinérantes de Bergen"! This later reference sees to
the Agency for European Folkhighschoolwork as it was to be called later. Other
speakers were Raymond Berrurier, mayor of Mesnil St. Denis and general
secretary of the French committee of the Council of "Communes
d'Europe" and as notary public for Méridon a friend of Guermonprez, on
"The role of Cultural Centres in community life"; and Denis de
Rougemont on "The Foyers de Culture and Europe".
Most participants - understandably -
were representatives of French organisations and cultural centres; among them
Jean Laborey (CNFR), A. Léger (Délégue Général of the Fédération Française des
Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture"), Lucien Trichaud (idem) and Guy
From Britain came MS. Muriel Smith,
officer for Community Centres - the London Council of Social Services; Erik
Halvorsen (Høejskolernes Sekretariat) and Vilhelm Nielsen (Hilleroed
Folkehoejskole) from Denmark; Tore Lundin, director of ABF from Sweden: Odd
Norland, State Council for popular education, from Norway. For the Netherlands
Oscar Guermonprez and Bob Schouten were present.
In the discussions during the formal
General Assembly it became clear that several crucial issues lay hidden in the
conceptions with which De Rougemont c.s. had believed that their "European
secretariat of Cultural Centres" could be given a flying start. There was
the feeling of being hastily overruled with a"ready-made"
constitution prepared in the preliminary meetings in Brussels and Geneva (March
and May 1952) in which the presence of Belgian and French cultural centres had
been predominant. And the formal and legalistic approach was less appreciated
by the "Northern" participants in the present conference.
Other points raised - Guermonprez
initiating most of the interventions - were the relationship with the
International Federation of Settlements and that with the Centre d'Échanges
Internationaux. From the point of view of those who wanted to establish a
European cooperation of Residential Colleges and Folkhighschools - as
Guermonprez c.s. were trying to do - it was quite obvious that a distinction
between locally operating centres and residential ones should be made.
Moreover - as Folkhighschools were
already organising exchanges themselves (Ecoles Supérieures fixes et itinérantes!)
leaving the secretariat in the hands of the Centre of International Exchanges,
seemed to be little attractive.
And finally the great diversity of
institutions which the new organisation had in mind to bring together - however
enriching this according to De Rougemont might be - did not appeal to many. Bob
Schouten, in his book on the first 25 years of the Bureau gives a vivid
eye-witness account of the proceedings.
At the end of the meeting a
resolution was put forward, tabled by the representatives from Sweden, Norway,
Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain which deserves to be
quoted in full.
"The representatives from (etc.) discussed the
constitution of the "Communauté de Foyers de Culture" and put forward
as personal opinion the following: that it was very important to have a
round-table where cultural work in Europe could be discussed and they
appreciated the opportunity which this conference had given for people from
different countries to meet together. They considered that such conference
furthered the spirit of European cooperation.
They felt however that it was not
necessary, or even desirable at this stage to have a rigid organisation, though
they wished to stress the need for conferences such as this and study-courses,
with a secretariat which would also do research and collect and circulate
They thought that at present this
might best be done by the European Youth Campaign and the European Centre of
Culture at Geneva, perhaps in cooperation with the cultural committee of the
European Council, and that in the future, out of these conferences, might grow
a special organisation for this work".
(text in manuscript, original
French by Guermonprez; English version by Ms. M. Smith)
This resolution is not contained in
the formal minutes of the meeting, but it is quite clear that its acceptance
meant that a fundamentally different course had to be taken.
The minutes just state that the
elected governing committee should study the question and make new proposals.
In this committee, with four members from French and Belgian cultural centres,
three other seats wee reserved for "the countries of the North" (i.e.
Netherlands and Scandinavia) and for Germany.
The Conference, the next day
following this meeting, under the chairmanship of Jacques Eugène, opened with
the speech of Guermonprez. The not published manuscript shows that he
essentially, though constantly speaking of "cultural centres",
attributed to them the roles which a Folkhighschool in the Grundtvigian
philosophy should have.
The discussion that followed his
speech and those of the other speakers mentioned, according to Bob Schouten, centred around the question whether
a specific adult education secretariat should not be established and if so
where it could be independently positioned. Clearly emphasis in this
conference, with speeches geared to the subject-matter instead of organisation
formalities, had shifted from a discussion about a ready-made European
construction for "cultural centres" - whatever those might be - to
the much more open question of how to organise a European cooperation of adult
This very much came in line with the
questions discussed between the Folkhighschools in Europe in their own meetings
in Bergen (51) and Méridon (52).